Two key members of the new coalition have questioned why caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam raised the spectre of a new election if a shareholding complaint against Move Forward Party (MFP) leader Pita Limjaroenrat is upheld.
Move Forward spokesman Rangsiman Rome on Thursday reiterated that his party was well prepared to clarify the party leader’s shareholding in iTV Plc, saying the complaints against Mr Pita were politically motivated.
The MFP list MP-elect questioned why Mr Wissanu raised the scenario of a new nationwide general election if a ruling against Mr Pita leads to the revocation of his prime ministerial eligibility, MP status and his endorsement of his party’s candidates in the May 14 polls.
“In making such remarks, You (Mr Wissanu) are trying to advise senators (how to vote), aren’t you?” Mr Rangsiman asked rhetorically. “This is a way to influence society and will make senators hesitate with hopes for a windfall.
“My question is whether the way you are doing it will create chaos in society or not. It’s tantamount to showing no respect for the intention of people who exercised their voting rights.”
He advised people not to attach much importance to the scenario outlined by Mr Wissanu. Although Mr Wissanu is known as a legal expert, he said, it did not mean that everything he said was correct.
“Instead of giving a press interview in this manner, it’s better for Mr Wissanu to suggest to Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha that he show some spirit and pack his belongings from Government House,” said Mr Rangsiman, referring to the caretaker prime minister.
Pressed by reporters on Wednesday, Mr Wissanu said how the details in the shareholding complaint against Mr Pita were interpreted would be a key factor in deciding his fate.
If a complaint targets Mr Pita’s eligibility to be an MP he could still be prime minister, because the prime minister is not required to be an MP, he said. If a complaint targets his prime ministerial qualifications, he could still be an MP.
A complaint could also question Mr Pita’s approval of Move Forward memberships, Mr Wissanu said. “In that case, there would have to be a new nationwide general election,” he said.
He was responding to questions about the possible scenarios if the case goes to the Constitutional Court. At the moment, the Election Commission is reviewing the case and if it decides he did not violate any rules, that is the end of the story.
Chusak Sirinil, a deputy leader of the Pheu Thai Party, also shrugged off Mr Wissanu’s remarks about a new election, calling such a scenario far-fetched.
Mr Pita endorsed election candidates in the May 14 polls in his capacity as his party’s leader, not as an MP or prime minister, said Mr Chusak, the head of Pheu Thai’s legal team. Mr Pita’s party leadership was legal and in line with the party’s regulations. It had nothing to do with any shareholding, said Mr Chusak.
Senator Seree Suwanpanont, however, on Thursday echoed Mr Wissanu’s remarks, saying there was possibility that a ruling against Mr Pita could cause the May 14 results to be nullified and a new vote held.
He contends that Mr Pita was aware that he was not qualified to be an MP because of the media shareholding. This meant that he endorsed the candidates despite the fact that he was not qualified, said the appointed senator.
In his view, the election should be nullified only in constituencies where there were MFP candidates, not all constituencies. However, some may argue that there must be new nationwide polls because votes that the MFP received on May 14 would affect votes of other candidates.
The case against Mr Pita involves 42,000 shares in iTV, an independent broadcaster founded in the 1990s. The shares were originally held by his father, who died in 2006. In his role as manager of the estate, Mr Pita tried to sell the shares but could not find a buyer.
He said earlier that he had explained the matter to the poll body before he was sworn in after the election in 2019.
iTV stopped broadcasting in 2007 and its licence was taken over by Thai PBS. It was delisted from the Stock Exchange of Thailand in 2014. It has not had any income from media activity for several years, beyond small sums from a subsidiary that rented out broadcasting equipment. However, its business registration remains active only because litigation over its concession fees is not yet concluded.
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